Earth Day: Are you saving the planet or just showing off? Take our quiz.

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Are you making environmental choices in order to save the planet or because you want to be seen with a green halo? A new study by economic researchers Steven Sexton and Alison Sexton suggests that some people purchase products that are perceived as environmentally friendly as a way of increasing their social standing. They found, for example, that the unusually shaped Toyota Prius hybrid was a conspicuous badge that sold better in “green” communities than in other communities, all things being equal. “Consumers are willing to pay up to several thousand dollars to signal their environmental bona fides through their car choice,” wrote Sexton and Sexton.

Are you a “conspicuous conservationist”? Take our quiz to find out. (Note that our quiz will label answers that conspicuous conservationists would give as "Correct!" and all other answers as "Incorrect!"

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1. You want to buy a hybrid car. Your local used-car dealer is offering a Toyota Prius and a hybrid version of the Honda Civic. It looks like a regular Civic, except for the 'hybrid' logo on the back. Both get the exact same gas mileage, and they are identical in color and in all the options offered. The Prius costs $2,000 more. Which one do you buy?

The authors of the paper note that, thanks to its unique body styling and aggressive marketing, the Toyota Prius has "historically provided the most powerful signal of the owner’s affinity for the environment of any vehicle in the US," even though other cars, such as the Civic Hybrid, have nearly identical green ratings. They cite a New York Times report that 57 percent of Prius buyers said their main reason for choosing the Prius was becuase “it makes a statement about me."

The authors of the paper note that, thanks to its unique body styling and aggressive marketing, the Toyota Prius has "historically provided the most powerful signal of the owner’s affinity for the environment of any vehicle in the US," even though other cars, such as the Civic Hybrid, have nearly identical green ratings. They cite a New York Times report that 57 percent of Prius buyers said their main reason for choosing the Prius was because “it makes a statement about me."

The Prius

 

The Civic

 
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